One week ago, Supernatural (Episode 11.5) took the brothers to the site of the grisly 19th century murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, father and step-mother of Lizzie Borden. There is much controversy as to who murdered them in their home, the popular nursery rhyme sing-songing one theory:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
and gave her mother forty whacks,
when the job was finally done
gave her father forty one
Amazing what lurks in the childhood memories and recesses of our minds. It comes unbeckoned as if I were still jumping rope in the grassy courtyard where I grew up far, far away from the murder of her parents. Lizzie was put on trial and acquitted. She died of pneumonia in 1927. Her sister died nine days later. Despite having not seen each other in many years, they are buried side by side. There is a monument that marks Lizzie’s final resting place.
In her will, Lizzie left money to pay for the perpetual care of her father’s cemetery plot.
In viewing the previews for this episode, titled Thin Lizzie, they mention the family home in Fall River, Massachusetts, not all that far from where I live. I thought the Bed & Breakfast mentioned was a joke – was there really a place? One Google search and there it was. And before anyone asks, no, I have no desire or intention of visiting, no matter how close it is.
Some things should be left, and this is one of them.
On the morning after the episode aired, the Washington Post had an article, Would you buy a murder house? I personally don’t know, and I hope I don’t find out. I certainly do believe that houses can have spiritual remnants of previous owners, not to mention other places where spirits dwell. I’ve had my own encounters, the most visceral being in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, both on the battlefield and in the Jennie Wade House, one of the places that is always on my to see list. I had gone as a child, and again while on vacation with my husband, and then went again while on vacation with my three children. There is something compelling about Jennie’s house and her story that calls to me. I’ve been searching for the last week to find the photos that I’ve taken at the house, both in the 70s with my family and again in 2008, I believe with my children. I have a memory in a darkened stone masoned cellar that you had to climb down into from the outside. I’m not sure why that flashed through my head as I’m writing this.
The Jennie Wade House is located on a major road in Gettysburg; one that is extremely busy with traffic. It is in a tourist area, and directly across from a Rita’s Italian Ices Shop. My kids sat on the benches eating ices, and I watched the house, seemingly waiting for something to happen. Her death created the name of the landmark, although it is not actually Jennie’s house; it is her sister’s. Her sister had just had a baby, and Jennie and their mother came to help her. Jennie was baking bread, kneading the dough in the kitchen that adjoined the street. A stray bullet came through the front door, lodging in Jennie’s back, severing her spine and killing her.
She is the only civilian casualty in the city during the Battle of Gettysburg.
Ever since I was a little girl, I have always felt a presence in this house. Despite the obvious, poor special effects in the kitchen that give the soldier mannequin his face as he narrates the story of that fateful day, there is still something powerful in the “talking walls”. His projected face scared me beyond belief as an adolescent, and I still had that creepy vibe when I went there as an adult. I know much of the sounds and creaks were theatrics, but you couldn’t help but feel something in this house and that some of those “theatrics” weren’t all faked.
In the preview and then last week’s episode, Supernatural showed some artifacts from the house. I don’t know if they were really artifacts of the Borden murders or props made to look like the actual items, but the photo of Lizzie reminded me both of Jennie Wade and Laura Ingalls; possibly because of the camera techniques of the 19th century, the black and white, head and shoulders, the pose, the lace collars and pinned hair. It led me down a rabbit hole of googling and reading various accounts from both times of both of their lives, Lizzie and Jennie. They couldn’t have been more different, and I wondered at what point childhood me decided to devote so much of my time to Jennie rather than the nursery rhyme. Maybe I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of killing my parents. For a variety of reasons, I would never, but still why was I compelled to ignore her? I almost skipped the episode because the subject matter bothered me. I still wonder why I was never interested in Lizzie’s story – did I think she was guilty? I don’t know. I was much more compelled to the story of poor Jennie, baking bread for the soldiers. Her fiance was killed hours before she was. Neither of them knew the fate of the other.
I do love a good mystery, but I think I might need to not only have compelling characters, but also ones that are easier to feel compassion for, to put myself in their shoes, and I suppose, no, as I’ve said, I know that I could much more easily do that with Jennie Wade.